Clyburn Applauds Updated CDC Guidance to Protect Meatpacking Workers from the Coronavirus
“I am pleased that following the initiation of the Select Subcommittee inquiry into the dangers faced by meatpacking industry employees and the abject failure of the Trump Administration and their employers to protect them, CDC has made an initial update to its guidance to better protect these workers and their families and communities. This modification, along with strengthened Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance and an executive order directing OSHA to consider emergency temporary standards, are important steps the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to protect meatpacking workers and other vulnerable Americans from this deadly virus. Now we must build on this progress by enacting the American Rescue Plan and ensuring its implementation is effective, efficient, and equitable.”
On February 1, 2021, the Select Subcommittee launched an investigation into widespread coronavirus infections and deaths in meatpacking plants, issuing letters to OSHA, Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, and JBS USA. The letters noted that under the Trump Administration, OSHA issued only eight citations and less than $80,000 in total penalties for coronavirus-related violations at meatpacking companies—a paltry amount that has failed to curb dangerous conditions faced by many workers.
Following the initiation of this investigation, the CDC started to bring its guidance up to date for workers and employers in the meatpacking industry. Unlike guidance issued under the previous Administration, the revised guidance discourages meatpacking workers from returning to their job when they are potentially exposed to the virus, even if they do not show symptoms of being ill.
The Biden-Harris Administration is also taking other critical steps to correct the errors of the previous Administration and protect workers during the pandemic. On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety, which calls on OSHA to consider establishing a long-overdue emergency temporary standard and a more robust enforcement regime. On January 29, OSHA issued new guidance, Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace, to inform employers and employees about how to identify and reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus at work.